Thursday, March 8, 2012

Murderers and Other Scoundrels - Part I

Reba McEntire asked in her episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" whether one of her great grandfathers was a wealthy man, well thought of in the community or whether he was a "scoundrel."  I think that this touches on a basic desire that we have when we look at our family histories to have come from "good people."  Its a theme that is repeated weekly on WDYTYA.

I certainly share some of that desire, but frankly, I'm as or more excited when I encounter the "darker" relatives or, at least, relatives who've engage in nefarious activities.  I'm certainly not cheering them on or condoning behaviour (with one exception that I'll note below regarding my maternal great grandfather Henry "Clayton" Rock (what an awesome name, eh? "Clay Rock"), but it makes for some fun and interesting research to figure out if your relative killed someone or not and if so, why.

More on some of these relatives later (and I use the plural knowingly and intentionally). For now, though, the "exception" noted above - Clay Rock (pictured below):

Here he is with his wife (and 1st Cousin once removed -- but that's for another post on intermarriage) Isabel in 1944.

Digging in some newspaper archives in Clinton County (as described in this post) I found out that Clayton and a few of his relatives were arrested (likely pled guilty) and were fined for bootlegging.  Hard to think poorly of a guy for that "crime."  Details from the July 10, 1928, article are here:

After some additional research, it seems as though Judge Bryant was pretty strict regarding the Volstead Act, but it also wasn't uncommon for an entire room of defendants to cop pleas on these charges in exchange for a fine.  Fred Sr. was Clayton's cousin.  His son, Fred Jr. was also his wife's brother.  According to Wolfram Alpha, that's roughly a $1,000 fine for my great grandfather Clay.

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